We got together this morning for a writing sprint and to get some questions asked and answered, about the challenge.
Watch it now:
I know it was too early for some of you, but I opened up a Q&A session about StoryADay May this morning and recorded it, so you don’t have to miss out.
Some of the questions answered:
When do the prompts arrive (and how)?
Where do we comment?
Should we post our stories somewhere?
What are Story Sparks?
What will the Fun-Size Challenge tasks be like?
What if I ‘fail’?
You can watch me, and some veteran StoryADay writers, tackle these questions in the replay here or, if you’re subscribed to the StoryADay Podcast the audio version of it should show up in your feed today.
SIGN UP FOR STORYADAY MAY 2022
If you haven’t yet signed up to participate in the Classic Challenge or the Fun-Size Challenge, you can do that here.
(If you have signed up already you would have received a “Day 0” email from me, yesterday. No need to do anything further.) If you don’t sign up, I can’t send you daily emails during the challenge, but you’ll still get my weekly(ish) notes of encouragement.
Do you believe that you have a right to write? Not that people in general have a general right to be creative. Do you believe that you, specifically, have a right to write? Even if it takes time away from your partner, even if it takes time away from your kid, even if, even if, even if…
Do you believe you have a right to write? Do you believe your voice is important? Do you believe your voice matters?
Mindset is I’m coming to believe more than half the battle when it comes to writing. Everything else? We can, we can learn as we need it. I think getting that in place is huge.
In keeping with this month’s theme of Achieving Wins and Celebrating, limit yourself to 1000 words for this story and just get it done.
Write a story that starts at the end. The story must include a flower.
I’ve given you the restriction of including a flower, because when we have too much freedom it is paralyzing. I bet as soon as I said ‘flower’ your mind starting turning over how it could get a flower into a story.
Starting at the end is a fun way to tell a story. It’s a fun for the reader, as they try to unpick the puzzle of how your character ended up *here*. It’s good for the writer because we aren’t tempted to write a story-with-no-point. We know it’s going somewhere and we have to figure out how to get there!
All our stories should be about something, should hvae a point, should make the reader say ‘ah, yes, I must keep reading to find out why…”. Often, in the process of writing our ideas, we forget this, or get lost in the details. Telling a story in reverse (or at least starting at the end and jumping back in time) is a great exercise to cure us of this.
Brainstorm some ways your story could start that would intrigue a reader. Is your character standing on the roof of a building looking over the edge? Are they running? Are the police leading them away? Are they laughing gleefully as someone plunges a knife through their heart? (Yes, more Star Trek references! Bonus points if you can identify the episode.)
Read the “Secrets To Your Success” article from the StoryADay Essentials series, which defines a Story Spark and how you can use them to ‘win’ StoryADay.
If you’re already on the mailing list, dig out the Creativity Bundle you received when you subscribed, and use the Story Sparks Catchers I created for you. If you aren’t on the mailing list, sign up to get your Story Sparks Bundle now!
If you collect three Story Sparks a day now, you will
Gather 21 interesting nuggets for inclusion in stories, this week alone
Start looking at the world like a writer does: it’s all material
Train your brain to start thinking creatively
Be bursting with ideas when you sit down to write!
You could use the Petrarchan form of sonnet where the first 8 lines/sentences propose an argument or an idea and the second 8 answer or refute it.
You could use the Shakespearean form, with three groups of 4 linked sentences, followed by two lines/sentences that provide illumination, a revelation, a twist or an explanation.
You could write a sonnet series, with each group of 14 lines fulfilling a different function in your story.
Writing this way is hard but it frees you. Instead of worrying about writing well, you’re concentrating on the form. Sometimes that tricks your brain into writing really well; sometimes it’s just a triumph to have written at all.
This month I’m pushing us to write short stories in odd forms, lists, conversations, letters, all kinds of things.
Short stories can be told in narrative form, like mini-novels, but they don’t have to be. Part of the fun of being a short story writer is the ability to twist people’s brains, surprise them, make the familiar unfamiliar. You can do that with your images, but you can also do it with a story’s form.
You’ve made it! You’ve written stories all month long — whether you’ve written every day, or on and off throughout the month — I congratulate you!
Make sure to come back tomorrow for three things
The June Serious Writers’ Accountability Group — make your commitment to your writing for next month
Details about StoryFest — your chance to get your favorite story featured on the front page of StoryADay.org
The mini-critique group I’m running next week, to help you whip your stories into shape in time for StoryFest.
But before all that: one more story to go:
Write A Story About A Writer
Feel free to take out your aggressions on me! Feature a writer who turns on their teacher/mentor/professor!
Channel Stephen King’s “Misery” and feature a stalker.
Take the reader through all the goys and perils of the writing journey
Or use the conceit of a writer character to do something that couldn’t really happen in real life.
And after you’re done, write a blog post or a journal entry capturing all you’ve learned about yourself as a writer this month. Resolve to build on your strengths. Keep what you write somewhere safe, so that next time you have a big writing push coming up, you can benefit from all these lessons!
If you share your post online, be sure to send me a link (in the comments below or by email) or tag me on social media!
And don’t forget, StoryFest is coming, June 10-11!
Thank you all for playing along this month. Without you, I wouldn’t be doing any of this.
Today I wrap up the story structure series with a bang.
Write a Hansel & Gretel Structured Story
The Life-Changing Moment in this story structure, comes at the start.
The Life-Changing Moment may have happened ‘off-stage’ before the story starts (imagine the story of Hansel and Gretel where the kids are already alone in the woods. That would work, right?)
Remember to focus on what your character would never, ever choose to do, and how the circumstances are forcing them to face that (for example, Hansel and Gretel would never disobey/mistrust the adults in their life, but life is giving them a pretty clear directive to do just that).
This story starts with a big moment, and then throw complications at your character. Once you’ve told us enough about the character for us to figure out how they’re going to survive, you can end the story.
If you’d like to read more about this story structure, check out this post.
Don’t forget to post in the community or leave a comment to tell us how you got on today.
Today’s prompt sticks with this week’s theme of pushing the form of the short story away from the idea of it as a ‘mini novel’.
Short stories are incredibly versatile and short story readers are willing to work for their thrills. Let’s get to it:
Write a prose sonnet: a story 14 sentences long
Of course, our prose sonnets aren’t going to rhyme or be in any particular rhythm (although you can shoot for that if you like).
You can draw inspiration from traditional sonnet forms. For example, it could follow the structure of a Petrarchan sonnet which presents an argument or observation in the first 8 lines (sentences, in this case), then a turn in the next line. Then you can spend the rest of the story ‘answering’ the question/observation/argument of the start.
You could model your story on a Shakespearean sonnet: three groups of four related sentences, and a final two-sentence ending that perhaps turns the story upside down OR reinforces its message.
You could go from the specific to the general and end with a universal truth, or set the story up the other way around.
One powerful image might be all you need in a story this length: a grandparent with their grandchild, feeding the ducks, for example. Placed at either end of your story (or in the middle), this image might allow you to illustrate a theme on relatable, specific and still universal levels.
You could also write a sonnet ‘sequence’, if your story demands more room. That would mean you write groups of ‘scenes’ in 14 sentences each until your story is finished.
A TV critic took issue with the latest episodes of the BBC’s Sherlock, complaining that our hero was more James Bond than Conan Doyle’s Holmes. The episode’s writer wrote a response in verse, then the critic wrote back with his own poem. BUT, in the last couple of lines of the poem, he pointed out that he had embedded a hidden message in his words (the second letter of the first word of every line spelled it out).
I was so tickled that I’m stealing the idea (which he stole from Conan Doyle, so I don’t feel bad).
Write a story with a hidden message
You could make the first letter of every sentence spell out a message.
You could make the first/second/third/last word of every sentence add up to a secret message.
You should probably start by writing out your secret message and then figuring out the rest of the words in your story, so it fits!
This will force you to break all the normal rules of your process of storytelling. Don’t be afraid. Be bold. At the very least you’ll learn something about your process!
a list of grievances addressed to your character’s boss/children/spouse;
a shopping list;
a McSweeney’s style list;
a list of steps you are advising someone to take,
any other type of list you like.
The title is hugely important. You might need to write it last. It should perhaps have a double meaning: it might mean one thing to the reader before they read the story and yet peel away a layer once the story is in their brains.
Don’t be afraid to let the reader work. Leave things out. Imply much, explain little.
The twist in this kind of tale, comes because the form betrays the meaning: a list is a utilitarian, ephemeral thing. The more important/dramatic the issue your character takes on in the list, the more impact the story will have (this can be dramatic, funny, ridiculous, dark, or anything else!)
Today I invite you to do some world-building, either for a novel in progress or for a story world you’d like to spend more time in, focusing on concrete aspects of the world.
Write a story that focuses on the discovery/invention/ramifications of something that shapes your characters’ physical world.
Some questions you might ask: Why do we have roads? What invention led us to spend our evenings the way we do? What does your futuristic society have that might need explained? How did those things come about?
Write a story based on the transition point between a world with those things and the world that came before (think: Marty McFly in Back to the Future arriving at his younger-mom’s house the very day her father hooked up their first TV. Rolling the TV into their dining room that first time, probably affected their family dinners forever!)
Today’s writing prompt invites you to look back into your characters’ past again.
Imagine the first (significant) meeting between your protagonist and a secondary character
Again, if you’re not a novelist, imagine this scenario for a short story you’ve written in the past, or for one you’re planning.
If your novel-in-progress’s protagonist has a best friend, that might be the perfect person to choose here. If they have a ‘frenemy’, this story could shed some light on that relationship. You can even do this with a villain, if they have a history that begins before the novel starts.
Show us this meeting. Set up some of the dynamics we’ll recognize between the two characters later.
If your work-in-progress doesn’t have a great candidate for this story, invent one. A friend in the protagonist’s past, that we never meet in the later work, could set her expectations for all future friends (good or bad). Examine that.